Balancing Your Job Search with the Rest of Your Life

The final element of Martin Seligman’s PERMA model is achievement. As described in his 2011 best-seller, Flourish, achievement is about our pursuit of our life goals. How much time do we spend daily pursuing our dreams?

From a job search perspective, achievement is the pursuit of the job – how much time daily do you spend pursuing opportunities? In my experience, it is all too easy for job seekers to spend either way too much or way too little time searching for their next role. Too much time can mean searching more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. Too little time can mean checking job boards daily, then abandoning the search for the rest of the day. Neither of these options are ideal.

I recommend that full-time job seekers (those who are currently unemployed) invest 6-7 hours a day in the search or about 30-35 hours weekly. What you want here is a balance between your achievement focus on landing that next job and the rest of your life. Too much job search will actually harm the quality of your pursuit.

How so? Well, job searching more than 35 hours a week will drain you of energy, deplete you of enthusiasm, and blur your focus. You may find it difficult to sustain that pace and may not be able to get yourself psyched for each interview that comes along. My suggestion is to maintain an active job search pace 4 days per week, use 1 day per week as “me” time (self-care, recreation, creativity, or personal or professional development), and 2 days per week as family time.

Your goal, in short, is to balance the different roles you play in life. Consider the Life Career Rainbow, which offers us a visual of all of these roles:

Based on the work of psychologist Donald Super, the Rainbow demonstrates how our life roles shift as we age. It also reminds us that there is more to life than job search. While in the midst of a search, it is absolutely critical to maintain solid relationships with family, take care of your home, learn new things, sustain a social life, contribute to the community, play, and care for aging parents. Limiting your job search activities to the levels noted above helps make space for these other critical facets of life.

If you’re not job searching full-time, then you will need to scale down the search to fit into the time you have available to it – perhaps 30 minutes to an hour a day or 2-4 hours per week? And yes, you still have to balance the search with all the relevant roles in your own personal Life Career Rainbow.

If you’re spending less time job searching than the amounts recommended here, regardless of whether you are searching full-time or part-time, then your search is almost certainly flawed. In all probability you are paying less attention to one or more critical search components than you should (networking? LinkedIn?). The good news is that can change, starting right now.

Here’s to a well-balanced job search and a well-balanced life,

Cheryl Simpson